I may have given up on supernatural/demon horror novels completely if not for The Many (The End is Nigh). After hitting many dead ends in these horror sub-genres that I used to crave, I had the unpleasant thought that nobody was writing anything good and I needed to move on. When I move on from sub-genres, it’s not permanent but when I return I have decreased enthusiasm and patience. Thank you Joe Stone for writing an exciting supernatural/demon horror novel and giving me renewed hope!
The Many is an ensemble novel in which we are first introduced to four characters with separate but related stories until all four meet each other and share the same story. Usually I wouldn’t recommend this style of writing because I can’t keep track of what events happened to what character, but in The Many the four characters are distinctive enough to remember who and what is happening overall. The four characters are Tommy (a high school student with no luck in getting the girls), Jason (a man with close ties to his mother), Amy (a married woman in search of other men), and Nick (a police officer). A recommendation: Follow Amy’s story the closest because she starts and ends the book. These four characters witness different aspects of the demonic virus but the thing they share is that the entities get into their heads and taunt them about their secret sins as a way to (attempt to) possess them.
By now you’re probably curious about this demonic virus. It’s not fully explained in the novel, but that just means we’ll have something to look forward to in the sequel. From what I understand, it has something to do with Lou Parsons and his grudge against the Lenton, Massachussetts community’s priest. Lou Parsons either summons demons or is a demon himself and his goal is to take over the community and make it his. His method is to use powerful body-hacking, landscape-changing demons to take over “regular” people’s bodies while he works on influencing Tommy, Jason, Amy, and Nick to do his most important work (which involves killing the priest). By the end of this book, Lou Parson’s reach has extended from Lenton to all over Massachussetts.
I said it in multiple places of this review and I’ll say it again, reading The Many was such a relief. It has elements of other pre/post-apocalyptic novels such as the world being normal one day and spiraling out of control the next and that the cause of the apocalypse is supernatural, but hen it offers a twist. The creatures have zombie-like qualities such as feasting on human innards and flesh, but they’re not zombies and they have more of a sense of consciousness. This is much more unnerving than reading about mindless flesh-eaters. I like that by the end of the novel, I was excited for the next book because I have no idea what direction it’s going to take. Sometimes predictability is comforting, but I don’t read the horror genre to be comforted. I like that I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Since I’m excited and that hasn’t happened for a while, I feel safe in saying that if you are also a fan of supernatural/demon horror but you’re in a reading slump, you really should give The Many a chance. If you do, let me know what you think!
I had to think long and hard about writing a review for The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) by Wade H. Garret. If I was writing this review uncensored, I would state that it has some very good parts and some very bad parts and while I wouldn’t go into heavy detail I would tell my readers what they have to be aware of if they’re interested in reading this book. The author has a one page disclaimer about the book, and for a good reason. The thing is, I almost didn’t want to take a chance on writing an uncensored review because the author’s disclaimer essentially says “This book is graphic, gory, upsetting, politically incorrect, and offensive. Don’t read if you’re sensitive.” Eh, I’ve read worse. The sticking point for me was that also in his disclaimer, he talked about receiving negative reviews for the book and responding to the reviewer. Granted, the response was probably the most well-handled “Well, I like my writing so whatever” I’ve read in some time. Still, reviews are not meant to stroke an author’s ego or keep the book high in the ratings (for example, on Amazon where I rented this book as a Kindle Unlimited, keeping the average rating of the book between four and five stars). When I review a book, I may very well sing its praises. More often than not, I’m critical of the book. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book, but it means that I’ve read the book, I’ve thought about the book, and finally I want to share both the good and the bad of the book for other readers. It’s intimidating to read in an author’s disclaimer that they know what content is in their book and if it upsets you, well, you knew what you were getting into. In the end, I am going to review The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) because I have thoughts on the book and I want to share them with my readers.
The Angel of Vengeance takes place in a basement torture chamber, predominantly as a long, extremely graphic conversation between the anti-hero character Seth Coker and a man named “Richard”, “Dicky” for short. Here’s what you need to know: The conversation is part conversation between Seth and Dicky and part of a way to flash back to all of Seth’s handiwork, some that is lying around the basement in various locations. The conversation is broken down into stories that span two to three chapters followed by Seth showing Dicky what the bodies of his corpses look like in the present day. Seth is one of those characters that you will be conflicted on because he is a vigilante, he is not a good guy, his sanity is probably shot, and yes, he loves torturing people…but he has a sense of justice about it. Whenever Dicky asks Seth why he enjoys torture, Seth says that he’s doing it to bring justice to the victims of his victims. The way Seth views the criminal justice system is that it’s broken and doesn’t punish the people that need punishment the most, so he comes in to set things “right”.
I did have a segment of chapters that I completely understood Seth’s sense of justice, twisted as it was. “The Shattered Reflection of the Crescent Moon” “Human Octopus” and “The Gruesome Torture Device” tell the story of three men that, among other things, tortured and killed fifty-three shelter animals for no reason. Oddly, the paragraph in “The Shattered Reflection of the Crescent Moon” specifically about the shelter animal torture doesn’t go into the same graphic detail that goes into Seth’s methods of vengeance. It’s still extremely stomach-turning if you’re an animal lover and you don’t like reading about animal torture. The thing is that if animal torture makes your blood boil, you probably feel like anyone who tortures animals deserves to be tortured the same way themselves so they know how it feels. Maybe you even support Seth in these three chapters. In real life when I have a clear head I would never say “Torture the animal-torturers worse than what they did, but in reading these chapters I felt that primal sense of “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
People who have a cause that’s near and dear to their heart will probably have a similar reaction to myself. If you are anti-elder neglect or you’re anti-violence against women or you’re anti-child abuse, you might also find some segments where you support Seth’s brand of justice.
Although I did have three pet chapters (no pun intended) that I got into, I found myself wondering where Seth believed it was his duty to humanity to right every criminal justice system wrong through torture. Of course if we believe Seth’s account, it’s that victims of violent acts shouldn’t suffer without getting some kind of peace and since he’s capable of it, that’s his life’s work. That said, Seth is extreme in handing out justice and sometimes he has no connections to the people’s he’s helping/”helping”. There’s a plot twist in the final few chapters where readers learn why “Dicky” is Seth’s latest victim and there is minor justification. I won’t spoil it because it’s worth reading for. More often than not, it feels a lot like Seth tortures people for the fun of it and uses “I’m correcting injustices” as a way to shield his twisted hobby. It’s hard for me to get into Seth’s mindset. I don’t know that anyone can.
After reading The Angel of Vengeance, I had some final thoughts for potential readers. First, you absolutely need to take the author’s disclaimer seriously. This is not extreme horror like you’d get from Edward Lee (which I’ve read a few works from and will tell you that the version of extreme horror by Mr. Lee is more ridiculous than thought-provoking and hard to handle). There is nothing supernatural about this book. There is not a sense of “This part is gory but you’re supposed to find it laughable” with this book. There is some very dark humor in this book and if you read the reviews on Amazon, people have appreciated it. The humor is more about the weird exchanges between Seth and Dicky than, say, slapstick. Definitely keep in mind that this is not light reading. Second, if you are a book reviewer, don’t be afraid to write an honest review. This book challenged me, not because it had large vocabulary words but because enjoying it or appreciating it or being completely turned off was a moral dilemma. In the end I had to write a review of it and express why I was so challenged by it.
I love a good cannibal serial killer novel. You’d be surprised to learn that although I’m not a “gore hound” and in fact would rather read supernatural or psychological thriller novels, there is something I crave about a good cannibal serial killer horror novel. It kills me to admit that in spite of having the potential for a delicious cannibal serial killer novel, I did not love Consumed by author Matt Shaw. This is the best way I can describe Consumed: It was disturbing as promised, but not disturbing in the way I like my cannibal serial killer novels disturbing.
The plot is pretty standard. Five twenty-somethings who were once good friends but are beginning to fall apart go on a road trip in hopes of rebuilding their friendship. The main character is Michael, an aimless, hard-headed person. Michael’s best friend is Joel, an auto mechanic (oh, the irony!) who would smoke his life away if he could. Lara is a sharp-tongued woman who had once dated Joel and still feels the burn of their break-up. Hayley is a beauty queen who is so consumed (pun not intended but rock with it) with how she compares to other women that she doesn’t notice larger issues. Charlotte is a sweetheart who should not even be a part of the group and is viewed as a little sister that needs protected from the real world. Dan is just there, not someone who had a role other than being the first to die. The road trip doesn’t start off well with Lara and Joel bickering and continues to get worse when the car breaks down and they are rescued by two twenty-something brothers Johnny and Stephen who take them to the family house for a meal. Little do the five friends know that they’re the main course.
There are scenes of cannibalism in the novel, which I appreciated since that was why I wanted to read this book in the first place. Descriptions of a young woman eating a man during intercourse is sick and twisted, just the way I want my cannibal serial killer novels. What, I can’t enjoy a little bit of gore? In addition, there were entire pages dedicated to how some of the characters were sliced and diced. If you like details rather than fade-to-black sequences, Consumed is your book. Maybe.
How do you feel about incest? How do I put this without requiring a trigger warning? To put it bluntly, there is a lot of incest. None of it is fade-to-black either. It’s not as frequent or physically sickening as scenes in another extreme horror novel Dead to Writes (April Almighty Book One), the novel that I hold up as the sickest extreme horror novel I’ve read to date, but reading the descriptions of father-on-daughter violence feels voyeuristic and wrong. The problem with Consumed is that it should be the cannibalism that turns your stomach but in fact the incest is (I’m guessing) the reason this novel is considered extreme horror. I’ll ask you again, how do you feel about incest? Do you believe incest can carry a horror novel from beginning to end? Do you believe that incest is a ploy to make the villainous characters more sympathetic, even if there’s nothing else about them that is sympathetic? This may just be a personal concern, but I don’t think the way incest was written in Consumed was well-handled. Conventional wisdom says that you aren’t supposed to root for the villainous characters at any point of the novel. It was hard trying to negotiate the conventional wisdom with what the daughters suffered from their entire lives. Suzanne and Tammy, the daughters, are almost as into cannibalism as their parents. As readers, we shouldn’t like them. When they are raped by their father, we still don’t like them but we see them as victims and it’s just weird. Consumed would’ve been a stronger novella if the author left out the incest and just let us hate the family.
I have a lot of thoughts on Consumed, but I think author Matt Shaw’s author note placed right before the story says much more than I could say. Apparently Consumed isn’t even Matt Shaw’s normal style of writing. He had been receiving feedback from readers about them wanting some serious gore and rocked with it. His attempt with Consumed satisfied the extreme horror fans enough that the majority of ratings for the novella were overwhelmingly positive, but I’m not okay with it. I like Matt Shaw’s writing when it’s psychological (ex: Clown) or supernatural (ex: The Cabin and The Cabin: Asylum). I would normally recommend Matt Shaw. I will probably recommend some of his future works once I get ahold of them. I do not recommend Consumed.
I have no idea how to describe this book. I think the best way to put my feelings about it into a more clear perspective for you is that it is absolutely not one of those books I recommend anyone reading when they already feel physically sick and please, for all that is good and holy, don’t read it in a crowded public space. This is extreme horror at its most effective (a point that I cheer) but I was hesitant on even reviewing it because I felt wrong sitting in Panera reading it on my Kindle app. This is the book that would solidify how horror novel/horror genre in general haters feel about all the offerings. It’s an excellent read for anyone who likes body horror/torture scenes and cracked barely human families. In addition, I cheered for April Kennedy as a strong female character when she used her sexuality and manipulation skills to buy herself time from an impending death by the family of torture-happy cannibals. On the other hand, some of these scenes were just…blah. I keep going back and forth between whether I would heartily recommend it for in-private reading or say “Oh my god, never again! Don’t subject yourself to this!”
Dead to Writes begins simply enough with a man named Marty McDougal completing an upload of his novel Tunnel of Doom to the e-book selling website Crashbooks. He has delusions of the book immediately becoming a best-seller and bringing in so much money for the family that they could move up in the world. Problem: Marty McDougal sucks as a writer. College student April Kennedy, a horror buff on the Crashbooks mailing list, thought Tunnel of Doom looked interesting enough based on the title and purchased it, but of course it ended up being a book fail. Herbert, a horror novel reviewer who took his job seriously using the principle that even the worst written book deserved a thorough review of the problems with it, submitted a review dealing primarily with the bad grammar of the book. About thirty minutes later when Herbert checked his review for comments, he received one that read “You’re dead. M. C. McDougal.” Herbert wrote it off as the author being disgruntled that not everyone loved his “genius” work. Meanwhile, Marty McDougal was seething in his rage at some of the personal insults used in other reviews of his novel and plotting…well, let’s just say this is the meat (no pun intended) of Dead to Writes.
I have two competing thoughts about this book (Dead to Writes, not the fictional Tunnel of Doom) and I don’t know how to reconcile them.
On one hand, Dead to Writes is delicious in a sick and twisted way. There are scenes of torture that blow my mind because they’re so graphic and so convincing. I like it when a writer gives me the sense that they know exactly what they’re writing about. I know, this is part of the “sick and twisted” aspects of the book, but go with me here. Tim Miller is so convincing in his gory descriptions that no matter how much I want to slam the cover shut on my Lenovo tablet and forget I ever read this, I need to keep reading. I’m hooked. Few horror novels have done this for me in recent months, so props to Miller. Also, I love that there’s no distinction between “good” and “evil” in Dead to Writes. Under formulaic horror novel conventions, the McDougal family would be your evil villains and April Kennedy would be your hero. Technically April Kennedy is still the hero because this is the first book in a series about her hunting down people like the McDougals. However, April isn’t sugar and spice the way you’d expect most heroes to be. She uses the fact that the McDougal men and their mother (!) like to sexually abuse their victims before killing them to her advantage. By appealing to the family’s twisted sense of appropriate behavior, she is able to knock them off one by one. There were moments when I felt uncomfortable by April, but overall I applaud her for being strong-willed in spite of being shaken by her own abuse at the hands of the McDougals. April Kennedy is a strong female character if I ever saw one, so cheers to Tim Miller for that.
On the other hand, I am thoroughly disgusted by Dead to Writes and I feel extremely dirty for reading it. The scenes of rape were hard to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t included for the sole purpose of shock value. The McDougal family needed that kind of development because otherwise they’d be a generic cannibalistic family. I just didn’t want to read about a certain bodily fluid on every page and eventually it seemed overkill. We knew after the rape of the first victim in the beginning of the novel (before any of the bad reviews of Tunnel of Doom came in and Marty vowed revenge on his critics) that the McDougals were cruel. Having at least two drawn-out scenes as punishment for the negative reviews that weren’t even written by April or Herbert following that was I think the reason I felt so uncomfortable with this book. I wouldn’t normally cry “Trigger warning!” over a book in the horror genre because you should know what you could encounter by getting into the genre, but I want you all to know that if you’re uncomfortable with rape, stay far away from this book.
In conclusion, there is no conclusion I can reach about Dead to Writes. I love it for certain reasons but then I don’t feel comfortable about having read it for other reasons yet I want to continue reading future books in the series but then I’m not sure I can stomach another book as explicit as Dead of Writes but…but…but…Author Tim Miller contributes so much to the self-published extreme horror subgenre. I love having a new voice to read. I rented a second novel by Tim Miller on my Kindle Unlimited app and I’m excited to dive into it because he seems like a solid author. The same details that made me cringe and made me feel uncomfortable are what makes him a stand-out. In the case that I don’t have a clear recommendation, I’ll leave this review here and allow you all to use your own judgment.